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Francis Maloney White (1819–1888)

by George Tibbits

This article was published:

Francis Maloney White (1819-1888), architect, was born in December 1819 in London, eldest son of John Charles White, merchant. Educated at King's College, London, and in Rouen, France, he served articles with S. W. Dawkes and then worked under the London architect Charles Fowler for a year before touring Europe. After a brief return to England he migrated to Australia, arriving in Adelaide in 1848. In 1849 he rode to Melbourne, visited Hobart Town and then went to New South Wales where he settled for a short time on the Edward River. Early in 1851 he overlanded his stock to Melbourne, sold it, and commenced architectural practice. His first work in Melbourne was the Tudor style Scots Church manse in Collins Street. In 1852 he was architect for the National Model and Training School, but he was replaced next year on the grounds of dilatoriness.

In 1853 White won second prize in the competition for the proposed Legislative Council Chamber. Next year the commission for the new University of Melbourne building made his reputation; he was remembered for it long after his other work was forgotten. His plan provided for a quadrangle with cloisters and an ornamental front, all in the Tudor style; at first only two sides were erected and the impressive north side was completed in 1857—the south side was not built. The original portions of the building are adorned with the coats of arms of the members of the Buildings Committee of 1856.

White designed several flour-mills including the bluestone section of Dight's Mill on the Yarra River (1855) and at least one of William Degraves's mills in the Kyneton district (1856). His commercial work included the Melbourne office of William Degraves & Co., Flinders Lane (1860), F. A. Clough & Co. woolstores and the Australian Mutual Provident Society Building, both in Collins Street, and the Colonial Bank of Australasia, Camperdown (1869). His Renaissance revival warehouse in Flinders Lane for L. Stevenson and Sons (1865) is the finest example of his known designs in the classical manner, while his Bank of New Zealand in Collins Street shows his design at its most extravagant. His domestic work included mansions for the wife of Suetonius Officer, for C. W. Simson (Carmyle, Toorak) and for F. W. Prell (Iona, Toorak). His most important public position was as architect to the Melbourne Hospital, Lonsdale Street, where a range of sober buildings in the Tudor style attested to his competence in that mode. His only known church design is St Luke's, South Melbourne (Emerald Hill), where the foundation stone was laid in 1857.

A foundation member of the Victorian Institute of Architects, in 1859 White contributed a two-part paper 'On Ventilation' to its monthly meetings. His office was at 10 Elizabeth Street. Two younger architects are known to have served their articles with him: John Koch, and his son Alfred (b.1862) who became his partner in 1884 and continued the practice when White died. Shy and retiring, White was a capable architect seeking to integrate the new developments in building technology and services into his restrained conservative style. Within the profession he was affectionately called 'the Field Marshal', and Lloyd Tayler remembered him in 1900 as 'a warm generous friend, and an unassuming, though able and honourable professional brother'.

A member of the Melbourne Club, White died of heart disease on 14 September 1888 at his residence, William Street, St Kilda. Buried in the Baptist section of St Kilda cemetery he was survived by his son and five daughters—their mother was Harriett Broddell (d.1914) with whom White had lived from about 1859 and whom he acknowledged in his will as guardian of their children. His estate was valued for probate at £32,081.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • J. Smith (ed), Cyclopedia of Victoria, vol 1 (Melb, 1903)
  • J. A. Allan, The Old Model School: Its History and Romance 1852-1904 (Melb, 1934)
  • E. Scott, A History of the University of Melbourne (Melb, 1936)
  • G. Blainey, A Centenary History of the University of Melbourne (Melb, 1957)
  • Australasian Builder and Contractor's News, 29 Jan, 23 Apr 1859
  • Argus (Melbourne), 15 Sept 1888
  • Building, Engineering and Mining Journal, 5 May 1900.

Citation details

George Tibbits, 'White, Francis Maloney (1819–1888)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 21 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


December, 1819
London, Middlesex, England


14 September, 1888 (aged 68)
St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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